Bob Minner on the Making of the Collings Traditional Builders Choice

The Collings D1A Traditional Builder’s Choice I am playing in the video isn’t even a prototype per se. It’s more of a “Let’s see what happens” guitar. In December 2022, I flew to Austin to spend a couple of days at the Collings shop and hang out with everyone. Steve Nall, affectionately known as Nully, is the head luthier now, having been elevated to that position with the retirement of longtime head luthier Bruce VanWart.

Nully and I are great friends and insufferable guitar geeks. We were discussing, as we always do, the ever-elusive aspects and characteristics of certain ’30s vintage guitars that we like and find fascinating. Certainly, Collings has encapsulated some of those elements in the Traditional series, but Nully and I were curious to see what would happen if we did this and that to a guitar and pushed the boundaries a bit more in a build. In a way, it was like a custom menu of items I always wanted but would never ask for or could ask for because of Collings’ particular build standards, which produce the world’s finest acoustic guitars.

Basically, we wanted to see if it would work…and not feel too bad if it didn’t.

But it did.

Fast forward to May 2023 and another trip to Austin to try out the guitar. Man, right out of the box it was amazing, another level, actually. All-Collings but with a different voicing. A different feel in the neck. A unique full-body response and experience to me as the player. Really, the things that make this Builders Choice different is that, in a nutshell, it’s Nully’s exploration and expression of different voicings and bracing tweaks…as well as an 1870’s old growth maple bridge plate (thanks to Eric Sullivan of Sullivan Banjos). 

Each BC is unique to its own build, which I think is exciting.

As of late, Nully has honed into a specific aesthetic in terms of rosette, binding, hand-made pickguards (which he pours himself), as well as a plain peghead face and back headstock stamp of the Collings logo. These aesthetics make a ≈ instantly identifiable. 

Although I never had the chance to meet Bill Collings, I think he’d like these iterations of guitars, as they seem to capture his spirit of innovation but with the quality and excellence Collings is known for. Very special instruments, indeed. I’m honored to own this one, as it’s such a phenomenal guitar in every respect, one that feels like it’s been in my hands for decades.